Sweet Thursday

John Steinbeck is one of my all-time favorite authors. While Sweet Thursday is completely different from a novel like The Grapes of Wrath, it contains the magic, joy, humanity, and wisdom that he infuses into his novels so well.

I love the way Steinbeck shows community life, especially in Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday. It doesn’t matter that the characters are down on their luck because they all know each other and look out for each other. Sweet Thursday made me want to live in a boiler or at the Palace Flophouse. It made me want to seek these characters out and go to a Hooptedoodle to celebrate life and friendship.

Sweet Thursday was first published in 1954. Doc comes back from World War II and attempts to resume his life at his Cannery Row laboratory. Mack and the boys at the Palace Flophouse notice that he’s not quite the same after the war and they try to cheer him up.

There are so many hilarious and insightful scenes in this novel. One part that made me laugh was when Doc went out on a date and talked about octopi the whole time. The story goes on to say, “the subject of her eyes, her feelings, her skin, her thoughts, did not come up.”

Then there’s Hazel, known as the densest of all the characters living at the flophouse. Fauna reads his horoscope one day and tells him that he’s going to become President of the United States. Hazel doesn’t want to be President, but he reluctantly tries to take on the responsibility.

One of my favorite characters was Jingleballicks, a scientist friend of Doc’s who suddenly appears in his laboratory. He loves to rant and rave and argue with Doc. When he first appears, Doc accuses him of being seen outside on his hands and knees, pulling a worm out of the ground with his teeth. That’s probably one of the most unique ways of introducing a character that I’ve ever noticed.

I loved everything Jingleballicks said while ranting and raving, like this:

“Man has solved his problems. Predators he has removed from the earth; heat and cold he has turned aside; communicable disease he has practically eliminated. The old live on, the young do not die…It is a cosmic joke. Preoccupation with survival has set the stage for extinction.”

It’s amazing that this was published in 1954. The novel mentions that doing away with fishing limits during the war devastated the area’s fishing industry, while adding, “it was done for patriotic reasons but that didn’t bring the fish back.” You’d never think a story like this would contain such environmental messages.

Mostly though, this novel is a celebration of community life and friendship. The day of Sweet Thursday, the day everyone anticipates, is perfectly described in all kinds of ways. Here are a few:

“There is no doubt that forces were in motion on that Thursday in Cannery Row. Some of the causes and directions have been in process for generations. There are always some people who claim they felt it coming. Those who remember say it felt like earthquake weather.”

“Old people sit looking off into the distance and remember inaccurately that the days of their youth were all like that.”

“Miss Graves, who sings the lead in the butterfly pageant in Pacific Grove, saw her first leprechaun up in back of the reservoir – but you can’t tell everything that happened every place on that Sweet Thursday.”

Of course, I’m not going to say what happens on Sweet Thursday. You’ll have to read the book to find out. Happy weekend – I hope you’ll find a Hooptedoodle out there somewhere!

A huge thank you to Patsy from Patsy’s Creative Corner and BJ at My Book-a-logue for the latest reviews of Ocean Echoes. You can find beautiful paintings and drawings at Patsy’s Creative Corner and excellent book reviews at My Book-a-logue. The latest ocean life paintings by Patsy were inspired by Ocean Echoes. That means so much to me. Please visit and follow if you’re not familiar with them already.

Thank you to everyone for reading Ocean Echoes. It’s so nice to know that the book has touched a few lives out there – that makes it all worthwhile.

34 thoughts on “Sweet Thursday

  1. I read so few classics, it’s embarrassing. In fact, I haven’t read any for over a decade. Maybe even longer. (Hangs head in shame…)

    Thank you for introducing me to this one. If I ever meander away from my current TBR pile, I’ll have to consider it.

    • You do read a lot of books though! This is a fun one – it doesn’t feel like a classic. My favorite is still The Grapes of Wrath – that feels more like a classic but it’s worth it. In a way, Sweet Thursday might have been Steinbeck’s way of recovering after writing The Grapes of Wrath. 🙂

  2. I have never heard of this book, which is amazing and rather embarrassing to me. I’ll have to read it. I greatly admire Steinbeck’s writing; he had such a way with words, and some of his books are still so relevant to the present.

    • It’s not as well known as The Grapes of Wrath or some of his others. I loved Cannery Row and this is sort of a sequel to that one, but it still took me a while to get to Sweet Thursday for some reason. Thanks again for your review! I really appreciate it.

  3. I’m sad to say that I have never heard of this novel before. I like the focus on community and people looking out for one another, though. I will have to keep my eyes opened for it sometime in the future!

    • It’s a fun one! It’s sort of a sequel to Cannery Row with some of the same crazy characters. They’re both very different from The Grapes of Wrath, but I love all of them because of the way he brings in such a community feeling.

  4. I too loved Steinbeck’s books but it was a good while since I read them. Thanks for the
    reminder and for bringing back these charachters.

    • I’m glad you’ve enjoyed his books too! He’s always fun to return to. I keep thinking I should read The Grapes of Wrath again since that’s one of my big favorites.

    • That’s true, it is timeless because of the way he shows the characters. There are a lot of sweet, funny parts that are a lot of fun to read.

  5. I really should read Steinbeck more widely – I can only recall reading his main works over the years and it’s great to learn about other, less well known books.

    • He’s one of my all-time favorite authors and I hadn’t read this one until recently. 🙂 He does have a few lesser known books, but the ones I’ve read have all been entertaining or thought provoking in different ways.

  6. I haven’t read this, either, Sheila, but thanks for the post. Right now, I’d like to be able to read about 5 books at the same time, yours, including. So, I’m moving slowly with blogging friend’s books for now. Maybe Steinbeck will enter into my library again in the near future…have a great day!

    • Thanks Lauren! I know what you mean – there are always more books to read! It’s exciting to think of all the possibilities. Hope you have a great day too – love and hugs!

    • Thanks so much Susan! I hope it’ll make you want to visit. There are a lot of photo opportunities here, especially once the weather gets a little better. 🙂

  7. I am ashamed to say I have not read any Steinbeck novels at all. My brother studied ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ for his English exam when he was at school but I didn’t. I must put ‘Sweet Thursday’ on my TBR list; it sounds just the book for me!

    • It is a lot of fun so I’m guessing you’ll love it! The funny thing is that when I had to read The Grapes of Wrath in high school, I hated it. Then I read it later on and it became one of my big favorites. I hope you’ll enjoy Sweet Thursday!

  8. I haven’t read this Steinbeck yet, but looking forward to adding it to my TBR. I always enjoy reading about Steinbeck’s concern for the natural world. “The Sea of Cortez” is especially delightful in its love of marine biology.

    • The Grapes of Wrath is still my favorite out of the ones I’ve read, but this was a fun one. It will make you want to have a hooptedoodle and that’s always a good thing. 🙂

  9. I’ve not read any Steinbeck yet but this sounds like a great starting point, love your review and am excited to read it now!

  10. I don’t think I realized quite how ahead of its time, environmentally and existentially, this book was, Sheila. You’ve inspired me to bump it up the reading queue!

    • That’s great – it’s interesting to think about the time period it was written in while reading it. It’s also a good one if you’re looking for a quick read. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

  11. I shall order it right away. I’ve read several of his books, enjoyed each one but I haven’t read Sweet Thursday yet. It may serve as a light break between Nietzsche and Marx in my Summer reading… Actually, I’m mixing them up and reading lighter pieces in-between.

    Have you read any Antoine Laurain? Some of his work has been translated into English and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far. Happy reading!

    • It’s a great one for some lighter summer reading, along with Cannery Row. I’ll have to look into Antoine Laurain – thank you and happy summer reading!

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